Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Recognition Matters: Delivering More Than Retention & Engagement

HR pros know the standard rationale for employee recognition programs – increased engagement, productivity, retention and incremental revenue.
But as this has become the recognition mantra over the past decade, isn’t it time we call on recognition programs to do more?
Executives know (and buy into) all the aforementioned benefits, but given today’s economic realities where there is still a call to do more with less, funding for non-cash compensation is attracting higher levels of scrutiny.
HR needs to turbo charge the recognition business case and demonstrate that programs set the stage for continued optimization of the organization’s number one resource (and in many cases expense) – its people.
Recognition planners today must show how their programs are:
  1. Promoting employee cooperation and collaboration;
  2. Igniting personal innovation; and,
  3. Uncovering best practices that can be shared and duplicated for economic gain across the enterprise.

An information-sharing corporate culture

The austere economic conditions stoked during the Great Recession and now integral to today’s “new normal,” have negatively influenced some corporate cultures and will continue to influence knowledge worker behaviors unless proactive action is taken.
Constructive corporate cultures encourage employee idea creation and idea sharing and align corporate strategy with behavioral expectations. It gives employees clarity and purpose and provides a framework for their contributions.
In these positive environments workers are more likely to trust their managers and coworkers and are more prone to share information and ideas freely and contribute discretionary effort toward shared outcomes more willingly. They work together and collaborate for the betterment of the organization.
It is key for HR to take the pulse of their organization’s culture to determine if there are negative residual impacts from the recession. For example, have employees stopped sharing information as readily? Have they stopped willingly volunteering their time and talents for discretionary projects?

Promoting virtual, cross-functional collaboration

It is critical to correct these issues with programs that integrate silos and recognize and reward working as a seamless and coordinated group. Recognition programs can be used to motivate team members to share insights, information and experiences; to keep others informed on project progress; and to help others overcome difficulties – all critical to overall business outcomes.
Today’s knowledge-driven businesses are highly virtual, integrated and characterized by teams of cross-functional and, often times, geographically-dispersed workers. While enterprises have invested significantly in technology to help teams work together more efficiently, it is not enough to overcome the social limitations of this modern day work structure.
The cross-matrixed approach can blur conventional reporting hierarchies. Managers are often leading teams toward a unified goal but in many cases have no real say-so over the individual workers. However, studies show that leaders who acknowledge workers – even for the smallest contributions – get better results than those that do not. They provide a psychological safety net for new ideas and that feeling of trust, cultivated through the manager’s encouragement, has been proven to promote deeper participation and greater enthusiasm among knowledge workers.
Recognition programs can help make this part of collaboration easy. With intuitive and seamless recognition solutions, managers can easily encourage and reward contributions across collaborative teams. This approach results in better outcomes, higher levels of participation and workers are more giving of their time and talents.

Uncover and leverage “personal patents”

Traditionally innovation has been the purview of research and development departments and measured by patent filings and the subsequent commercialization of new products. But innovation does not need to be that radical to have value.
Engaged knowledge workers’ solutions to everyday challenges are an actionable potential source of competitive advantage. These “personal patents” oftentimes define the finest, newest – but often unshared – best practices emerging from within today’s enterprises.
Today’s recognition programs can help spotlight and promote some of these ideas internally to not only acknowledge the individual’s idea but help others adopt the new methods and motivate more employees to pursue and share new ideas of their own. Recognizing a good idea helps other employees benefit from it and can fast track it into the firm’s formal work processes. In fact, aBabson Executive Education poll revealed that employees working at companies whose leadership overtly rewards new ideas are 250 percent more likely to propose and develop business improvements on a regular basis.
HR executives who seek new ways to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of their talent with advanced recognition methods are well positioned to add greater value to the enterprise. At the core, recognition must have stronger alignment with the organization’s growth goals and to help increase the information flow, collaboration and innovation of today’s workers.
Those outcomes should be at the heart of any recognition business case.
By Mike Ryan - senior vice president of marketing and strategy for Madison Performance Group,

About DISC Profiling

DISC is about how a person behaves and prefers to give and receive information. It does not offer information on how intelligent people are, their background or experience. There are no good or bad styles, and people can be a blend of more than one.
The DISC Assessment is known for these communication and behavior types: D (Dominance), I (Influence), S (Steadiness) and C (Compliance):
  • D: How a person responds to problems and challenges. This style is a bottom-line organizer, forward-looking, challenge-oriented, initiates projects and is innovative.
  • I: How a person influences people and contacts. This style is optimistic, enthusiastic, creative at problem solving, team oriented and can negotiate conflict.
  • S: How a person responds to pace and consistency. This style is dependable, team oriented, patient, empathic, logical, loyal and will support a leader and a cause.
  • C: How a person responds to procedures and compliance. This style maintains high standards, is conscientious, clarifies information and tests out directives, asks the right questions and focuses on task completion.
DISC is a group of psychological inventories developed by John Geier, and others, and based on the 1928 work of psychologist William Moulton Marston and the original behavioralist Walter V. Clarke and others

DISC proponents believe that characteristics of behavior can be grouped into these four major "behavior styles" and they tend to exhibit specific characteristics common to that particular style. All individuals possess all four, but what differs from one to another is the extent of each.

The assessments classify four aspects of behavior by testing a person's preferences in word associations. DISC is an acronym for:
  • Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness
(Note: Sometimes the word Drive is used in place of Dominance)
  • Inducement – relating to social situations and communication
(Note: Sometimes the word Influence is used in place of Inducement)
  • Submission – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
(Note: Sometimes the word Steadiness is used in place of Submission)
  • Compliance – relating to structure and organization(Note: Sometimes the words Caution or Conscientiousness are used in place of Compliance)

These four dimensions can be grouped in a grid with "D" and "I" sharing the top row and representing extroverted aspects of the personality, and "C" and "S" below representing introverted aspects. "D" and "C" then share the left column and represent task-focused aspects, and "I" and "S" share the right column and represent social aspects. In this matrix, the vertical dimension represents a factor of "Assertive" or "Passive", while the horizontal dimension represents "Open" vs. "Guarded".
  • Drive: People who score high in the intensity of the "D" styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low "D" scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High "D" people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.
  • Influence: People with high "I" scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with low "I" scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical.
  • Steadiness: People with high "S" styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High "S" individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. Low "S" intensity scores are those who like change and variety. People with low "S" scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.
  • Compliance: People with high "C" styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High "C" people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful. Those with low "C" scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and unconcerned with details.

Learning Trend: Going Back to the Future

After more than 10 years of studying the learning industry in great detail, it's hard not to see patterns. This year, as Bersin & Associates finishes its third biannual High-Impact Learning Organization research study, I see some trends that go back to the future.

First, as we all know, the learning industry has changed dramatically in the last few years. Companies are flooded with content, video and tools for sharing information. This has dramatically changed the nature of learning programs, making them less formal, more continuous, more social and more mobile. Our research shows organizations that spend time understanding new media are developing learning programs faster, delivering more impact and creating more compelling learning experiences. But we also see several important retro trends emerging. These include:

1. Increasing centralization:

Years ago companies built corporate universities, and then e-learning started to take hold and small learning groups proliferated throughout the organization. These small groups got big - customer education, sales training, manufacturing, compliance. But in the last few years, driven by the recession and the need to re-skill and on-board workers, these groups are getting stitched back together. Companies such as Citibank, Pfizer, Merck, Deloitte, Accenture and Xerox are building more centralized learning teams again, focused on creating alignment, reducing costs and creating an integrated development experience for all employees.

2. A refocus on leadership development:

Leadership development has been the first or second learning program in companies for years, and now it is on the front burner. Why? The very definition of leadership has changed. Today's high-performing leader is more of a coach, expert and inspiring team builder. AT&T's new leadership development program trains 80,000 professionals around the organization, reflecting the fact that in today's business environment, we are all leaders in some way.

3. Fixing the learning technology infrastructure:

Unfortunately, after almost 15 years of research and development in the corporate LMS market, the industry is a mess again. Two of the biggest LMS vendors were recently acquired by ERP providers - SAP and Oracle - another of the biggest went private - SumTotal - and most of the remaining LMS vendors are small or have been gobbled up by talent management companies. Saba and Cornerstone are the only remaining public LMS vendors that have not completely lost focus on innovation in this market, and now there are dozens of exciting start-ups. These new companies have social learning platforms, collaboration systems, self-authoring tools and exciting mobile products. So, most corporate learning departments are once again forced to rethink their learning platform and how to stitch it together.

4. Figuring out how to measure impact:

I've always been amazed at how hard companies work to quantify the impact of their L&D programs. Our High-Impact Learning Organization study this year showed that CLOs' top challenge is measuring the impact of their programs. In most cases we find this is the wrong question. We want to measure the impact of training, but we need to go further and measure the effectiveness of everything HR does so we can focus our energies in the right direction.

5. Gaining top-level support:

This year's research shows that once again L&D teams feel a lot of pressure to gain more high-level support. The expectations for learning are greater than ever now - Lloyd's of London recently surveyed 500 CEOs, and they cited lack of skills as their No. 2 risk, higher than risk of sovereign credit, floods, earthquakes and cyber-terrorism. So L&D is taking on more importance than ever, yet L&D leaders feel unsupported. This is always going to be true to some degree, since many business leaders still don't understand the importance of building a learning culture.

The good news is we have made a lot of progress. Many companies are now heavily focused on building a complete learning culture and integrating L&D programs into development planning, leadership culture and end-to-end talent management. And today's training programs are more fun, engaging and complete than they were 10 years ago.

By Josh Bersin | Chief Learning Officer - Bersin & Associates